The Case To Keep Nail Yakupov


The first 3 years of 21 year old Nail Yakupov’s career has been quite an adventure to say the least. The former first overall pick of 2012 has had his fair share of struggles. One can argue that his play has not lived up to the high expectations of being a number 1 overall selection. Nail Yakupov is often criticized for his lack of offensive production, consistency and defensive play. Some have even gone as far to say that he is a “draft bust”. Although some believe, including myself, that a players plus/minus is a useless stat and is completely irrelevant to the importance of defensive play, Yakupov possesses one of the worst plus/minus’ in the NHL. With the exception of his stellar rookie season in 2012/13, his numbers have not been ideal. His production in the NHL is not quite up to par with that of a consistent, top 6 forward.

It is important to make note of the fact that Nail Yakupov has played in under 200 NHL games. In the eyes of anyone who knows a thing or two about hockey,a player that has played in under 200 NHL games is still considered inexperienced. Not to mention the fact that Yak is still only 21 years of age. To say he is a “draft bust” is a crime.

The Edmonton Oilers need to keep Nail Yakupov. After resigning him to a 2 year deal worth 2.5 million per year, the stakes for Yak are high and his time to shine is now. The new deal is a bridge contract that will allow Yakupov another chance to prove his worth. Edmonton Journal legend Jim Matheson has the details of Nail Yakupov’s contract. Yak’s new deal is inexpensive and cost effective.

Rumors are constantly surfacing about trading Nail Yakupov. With the Edmonton Oilers having significant holes within their lineup, the idea of packaging the young Russian forward in a deal seems quite realistic to some people. In reality it might seem like a plausible solution. However, I firmly believe it is imperative that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli hangs on to Nail Yakupov, for now.

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Nail Yakupov possesses one of the hardest, quickest, laser beam-like shots i have ever seen. It’s like a high calibre sniper rifle. His lightning quick, explosive skating ability reminds me so much of the Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure. I see a future 40 goalscorer in Yakupov. He plays an intense, aggressive game and sticks up for his teammates. Yak provides dynamic character and emotion to a team that lacks a true identity. The tools that this kid possesses are a gift from god and are simply too valuable to waste. His potential is sky high. It would be a waste of a 2012 draft pick to trade Nail Yakupov because of his high pedigree as a first overall selection and the time and effort invested in him.

Call it however you saw it but the Dallas Eakins era in Edmonton was a flat out disaster and colossal failure. It was the wrong decision to hire a rookie coach to run a team full of inexperienced kids. The way Eakins and past management handled Nail Yakupov still makes me cringe. If you ask me, Yakupov was nearly destroyed as a player. I can respect the idea of trying to instill defensive fundamentals in Yak’s game, but in reality, Eakins and management went too far.

As a result of this, Yak’s offence completely dried up. There was a time when he was playing around 10 minutes or less a game in a fourth line role. When he got the puck, he looked as if he was skating on a banana peel and constantly losing the puck. His confidence was extinct.

The lesson learned was that Nail Yakupov is a unique player. He needs to be put in situations where he can be successful. Yak needs to play with players that can get the puck to him. The Derek Roy experiment in Edmonton last season proved that Nail Yakupov can create chemistry with the right player that can accommodate to his style of play. The success Derek Roy had with Nail Yakupov is a major sign of optimism and hope that Yak can be a productive top 6 forward for the Edmonton Oilers.

We know that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is “not afraid to trade young players”, as he said during his opening press conference when he was first introduced as General Manager. When Chiarelli was GM of the Boston Bruins, he proved that he can be bold. Evidence of this is when he shocked the hockey world by trading former 2nd overall pick of 2010 Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars.

It is easy to speculate that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is open to the idea of offloading one of his young forwards. Inevitably at some point, one or two of the Oilers young forwards will have to be moved. The question is who. At this point in time, given the high, star potential of Nail Yakupov, lack of experience at the NHL level and relatively low trade value, the idea of trading him seems pointless to me. Explore all options and make a decision on Nail Yakupov when his new contract expires in 2017.